Hi-fi : cinq astuces pour améliorer l’acoustique des pièces qui sonnent mal

Hi-fi : cinq astuces pour améliorer l’acoustique des pièces qui sonnent mal


KEF LSX speakers produce relatively timid bass, ideal in small rooms because they avoid serious bass issues.

Very often, the weak link in a hi-fi setup is not the amplifier or the speakers, but the listening room. The most unfriendly living rooms can turn music into sonic mush, no matter how expensive the audio setup. “Often the number one problem to solve for a hifi enthusiast”judge Jordan Kouby, sound engineer and co-founder of a Parisian music studio.

How do you know if the problem is in your part? Some clues should put you on your toes: a slight impression of noise, fuzzy and inaccurate bass, speakers that sound less good at home than in the store, some instruments that are too muted compared to listening with headphones.

In most cases, these problems can be relieved. Here are five solutions ranked by increasing cost.

1- Grease elbow (free)

Free, these two methods are mostly simple and effective. The first is to move the speakers around to fix the most common problem: fuzzy bass that muffles sound. Move the speakers away from the wall and move the chair closer to the speakers, even if it means fighting with other family members to impose these arrangements, because they often radically improve sound balance and clarity. If the problem does not go away, you can “try to place the speakers in unusual positions”, Jordan Kouby explains:

“The rule is that there are no rules. Asymmetrical positions sometimes work, you can even try moving the speaker closer to the wall or embed it in the bookcase. But be careful not to get lost along the way: it’s hard to stay lucid, even for a professional. Ask a loved one to move the speakers while you listen and get attached to a piece of music. »

Second improvement, reserved for rooms with too many tiles or windows: add rugs, curtains, furniture, bookshelves, which can improve sound accuracy. This solution can also be used “to soften an overly aggressive sound, or to attenuate those unpleasant metallic resonances one hears when clapping”Jordan Kouby says.

2- Measurements and corrections (150 to 500 euros)

If the above step isn’t enough to convince your ears, or if you can’t change the layout of your living room, you can try a steeper route: Put a sound filter, in software form, at the heart of your sound system. Audio. The sound will be filtered by a computer, which will become your only music player.

This method is equivalent to distorting the sound to alleviate its problems, “a good solution to limit the damage in the bass sounds”, judge Philippe, known under the pseudonym Pda0 on Forum-hi-fi.fr, a discussion space where he meets many enthusiasts. Having become the forum’s acoustics expert, Philippe was invited to the homes of more than fifty members to analyze his listening room. Nevertheless, ” this method only works if you always listen to the music from the same chair. Because elsewhere in the room she can [faire] worsen [la qualité du] its “Judge Jean-Pierre Lafont, an acoustician who works for cinemas and music studios.

Above all, you have to get a precise idea of ​​the problem by measuring it with a microphone designed for this purpose (about a hundred euros) and then viewing these measurements on a computer, which is not necessarily recent. You will need free software such as Rew, Rephase, Equalizer APO… These measurements, their analysis, then the creation of filters is a complex process that requires, according to Philippe, “a few dozen hours of free time spread over a month “. With a big catch on arrival: “a neutral sound that will not please all ears”. To better suit your personal tastes, you will have to customize the filters, which is even more complicated.

Fortunately, we can count on the community support of three forums, Homecinema-fr.com, AVCesar and Forum-hi-fi.fr, which provide tutorials available. Its members are happy to provide advice on creating filters. You can also simplify the task by simply taking measurements and then sending them to a reputable professional such as Home Audio Fidelity, who will create the filters for a hundred euros.

3- Fully automatic (500 to 2,000 euros)

As in the previous step, this solution consists of filtering the sound to alleviate the acoustic problems in the room. Except here it’s all automatic: it’s an amp looking after it like a replacement for yours. On first use, it blasts noises into your speakers as you listen through your microphone, then calculates audio filters.

This solution has a great advantage: you don’t have to make any effort to understand, the maneuver is simple, it takes a quarter of an hour. But this solution is more expensive and leaves little room to stick to your sound preferences. The result will often be disappointing to a lover of meaty bass, for example, but potentially surprising to a fan of sound fidelity and neutrality.

What amp model to choose? A model with the “self-calibration” function. The cheapest are the home theater amplifiers, such as the Denon AVR-X1700H DAB (about 800 euros) or the AVR-X3700H (1,400 euros). However, the ideal is to invest in one of the rare audiophile amplifiers with a self-calibrating system such as Lyngdorf or NAD, starting at 2,000 euros.

The more computer-savvy will be interested in a cheaper solution that doesn’t require you to change your amp: Dirac self-calibration software, which can be installed on the computer playing the music, or on a soundboard. to be inserted between the amplifier and the audio source. Count 450 euros in both cases. This solution is automatic, of course, but it takes about ten hours to implement.

4- Acoustic panels (1,000 to 5,000 euros)

This is the most effective solution, the one adopted by music studios because it respects the naturalness of the sound and allows you to enjoy adequate quality from various listening points. Here again, it all starts with a diagnosis made from a computer connected to a microphone. The fix takes the form of acoustic panels, which can be bought off-the-shelf from GIK or Vicoustic, for example, to be added to the walls bit by bit, taking measurements at each stage to check progress. Dozens of hours of trial and error in the offing.

Very often, the first step is to attenuate the most distracting audio reflections by placing triangular panels in the corners behind the speakers, then flat panels on the wall, first where the sound emitted by the speaker bounces back to the ear. This area is marked with a mirror, as explained here.

Unfortunately, this solution can make things worse: these acoustic panels absorb little bass. These can come up with their heavy and disabling flaws; these are often the main acoustic problems in a room. In many cases, individuals are reduced to correcting this problem with an audio filter (as explained in steps 2 and 3), because its treatment by acoustic panels, while superior, is extremely restrictive.

“The ideal is to install bass trap [pièges à basse] membrane, 50 centimeters thick, that covers 40% of the surface of the walls”, advises Jean-Pierre Lafont. But this takes up a lot of space – the room loses about 15% of its surface. and installation costs “about 100 euros per square meter of wall, if you do it yourself”. Or 2,000 euros for a room of 25 square meters -or eight times more expensive if it is a professional-.

“Be careful, its design is extremely delicate”warns Christian Malcurt, an acoustician who works in music studios and concert halls, who recommends a simpler solution: “Stretch the rockwool on several wooden frames, placing each one at a different distance from the wall: 10, 20, 30 or 40 centimeters. » Cost: a few tens of euros per square meter of wall. However, this solution does not absorb the deepest bass.

5- Bring a pro (5,000 to 50,000 euros)

This should be the easiest and most effective solution. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find a speaker at an affordable price. On the one hand, unskilled acousticians are far from unanimous: “Their work is very often disappointing”, Judge Philippe, who has experienced it several times. On the other hand, professional acousticians rarely work in hi-fi installations. « In the directory of CIDB professionals [Centre d’information et de documentation sur le bruit]which brings together all French acoustics, none mention hi-fi as a specialty”observes Jean-Pierre Lafont. The most capable professionals in this field are those, sadly few in number, who design the acoustics of music studios. The prices of these sizes are inaccessible to ordinary mortals.

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